Oct. 26, 2016, 10:40 p.m. – FR. FIDEL Villarroel, O.P., University archivist, acclaimed historian and “saint-maker,” was laid to rest earlier today at the Santuario de Santo Cristo in San Juan.

Former UST rector Fr. Roland de la Rosa O.P., who led the funeral Mass at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church, paid tribute to Villarroel, calling him “the greatest Dominican historian in the country back in the 20th century.”

“Fr. Fidel’s long list of achievements should not be dismissed but should be transmuted to young Dominicans [to] serve as a model,” de la Rosa said in his homily.

Villarroel’s death also marked the end of the era of Spanish Dominican presence in the Philippines, de la Rosa said.

De la Rosa encouraged the faithful to continue to appreciate and love sick or old priests instead of focusing on looking for their replacement.

“Once a priest is no longer useful, when he gets sick, we become more worried about looking for his replacement rather than making him feel worthy, appreciated and loved despite his situation,” he said.

“We believe that in death, life is changed, not ended. We believe that in death, extinction or banishment are not the last words, but hope,” he added.

Prefect of Libraries Fr. Angel Aparicio, O.P. read a letter from Villarroel’s family.

“Thick clouds ascended in our village that we can no longer hear your voice. Our family will treasure you, your wisdom, your humor,” the letter read.

Members of the Order of Preachers, together with some of Villarroel’s relatives and friends, were present in the funeral Mass in UST and interment in Santo Cristo, the church administered by the Spanish Dominicans.

Villarroel, 87, died last Oct. 23 at UST Hospital following multiple organ failure. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008.

He was ordained priest in 1953 and was assigned to the Philippines in 1957, where he served as UST’s archivist for almost 50 years. He headed the University’s Spanish department from 1957 to 1966 and from 1968 to 1981.

In 2009, the Dominican Order named Villarroel a Master of Sacred Theology, a title revered by the Dominicans and held by the founder St. Dominic de Guzman himself.

Villarroel authored 23 books and 65 articles on theology and the histories of UST, the Philippines and the Church.

Among them were “Apolinario Mabini,” “Father Jose Burgos, University Student,” “Jose Rizal and the University of Santo Tomas,” “Lorenzo de Manila: The Protomartyr of the Philippines and his Companions,” and “The Dominicans and the Philippine Revolution.”

His two-volume masterpiece titled “A History of the University of Santo Tomas: Four Centuries of Higher Education in the Philippines,” published in 2012, earned him the Gintong Aklat Award. Villarroel described it as “the best award I have received” in a 2014 interview with the Varsitarian.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II gave him the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice or the Cross of Honor Award – the highest distinction bestowed on the laity by the papacy.

The Spanish government awarded him the Cruz de Isabel la Catolica award in 1985 for his works that exemplified relations between Spain and the international community.

Villarroel earned the title “saint-maker” for writing the historical case for the canonization of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his Dominican companion-martyrs.


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